Helping others is good but you can’t help if you have nothing to give.
In a world that values being busy and available, sometimes at the cost of your own happiness, I am here to tell you, it is not good for your brain or your health.
Burnout can physically change the anatomy and function of your brain.
Symptoms of burnout included extreme fatigue, loss of passion and motivation, a growing sense of emotional depletion, cynicism and negativity. The reality is, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Research has found that key brain areas in emotion control and executive functioning do not communicate as well as they should in individuals who are burned out. Of most importance, burned out individuals show weaker working connections between the amygdala (our fear and negative emotion processing area) and the medial prefrontal cortex (a structure involved in problem solving and sophisticated cognitive processes). This might be the reason why individuals who feel burned out experience brain fog and difficulty controlling their negative emotions.
The brain also structurally looks different in individuals who are burned out. In fact, their brains show signs of chronic stress. Our cortex, the outer layer of our brain, naturally gets thinner with age. This is typical and perfectly fine. However in chronic stress and in individuals who are burned out, the medial prefrontal cortex shows pronounced thinning and accelerated aging. The amygdala and other brain structures that are susceptible to neurotoxins show signs of wear, tear, and shrinkage.
The point here is your brain changes how it looks and works when you are burned out.
If you feel burnout today make sure and engage in some self-care, figure out new strategies to share and address the load, and begin to set boundaries.